OPINION: Making Osun The Scapegoat

AregbesholaAt the close of last year, it was widely reported that the Federal Government and some states were owing workers up to, and in some cases, more than three months salaries. This allegation was first made by the Secretary General of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, Mr Alade Lawal. His concern, on which he gave details, was the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government.

However, Punch newspaper in its usual mischief and anti-Aregbesola diatribe added some states to the mix, prominent of which is Osun. A few days later, regrettably, the president of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) just took the Punch’s false report verbatim and also included Osun prominently in the list of states owing workers three months salaries and in which industrial action could commence.

This is unfortunate. If the Punch had done any investigation as it claimed, it would have known that as at the time of the report, it was only November 2014 salary that was outstanding since the October salary had been paid. So much for mischief and adversarial reporting that makes no distinction between truth and falsehood.

We must however have a holistic understanding of the salary situation. When Governor Rauf Aregbesola was sworn in November 27, 2010, the total wage bill in the state was N1.6 billion. The following year, the minimum wage act was passed into law and it became binding on all states. By 2012, all states of the federation had complied, making Osun wage bill to rise to N3.6 billion.

By the same token, with higher oil prices and increase in the pump head price of refined fuel locally, Osun’s revenue jumped to N4.6 billion, which was relatively safe, wage wise. However, by July 2013, Osun’s revenue had dropped to N2.8 billion. Within the same period, Aregbesola had shored up internally generated revenue from the meagre N300 million he met to N1billion, thus he was still able to pay salaries usually by the 26th of every month. However, allocation has dropped progressively since then and the last allocation Osun got for November 2014 from the Federation Account was N1.03 billion. There is no magic to this. Aregbesola should be commended for the astute manner he has managed the state’s economy, implementing wondrous projects and still fulfilling obligations to workers in spite of dwindling revenues.

The grim options before any state in this situation is either to reduce its workforce size to a sustainable level or find creative ways to generate revenue. The governor has chosen the later and should be commended. Even the workers understand the dire situation. If NLC and Punch newspaper are so concerned about salaries, let them pay the workers or ask them to transfer their services to your organisations.

Dwindling state allocation is a time bomb that portends the grave danger of state meltdown and the Federal Government should be held accountable for the malaise of oil theft and underproduction, which brought this about, not states trying to cope with the consequences.

Adekunle Ajayi,

Mushin, Lagos